Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Happy Halloween! Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

GOP contenders (minus Romney, Perry) debate education
Highlights, according to roundups at the Huffington Post and FoxNews: Cain called his opponents’ calls to shut down the U.S. Department of Education “premature.” He also came out in support of merit pay for teachers. Bachmann thinks the feds have gone too far in offering student loan help. Gingrich praised Race to the Top, but not a move toward “national standards.” And Santorum used the forum to get a dig in at Perry, who’s considering ditching future debates. (Ed Week)

Georgia: Results mixed in first year of private management at Cobb alternative school
Oakwood Digital Academy in Cobb County graduated fewer than half its seniors last year, yet students are lining up to get in. The privately run alternative school, which has an enrollment of 150, gives failing students 16 and older a chance to fast-track their educations and get a diploma before they reach 21 and age out of the system. Despite the graduation rate — about 40 percent last year, according to the Georgia Department of Education — officials say the school has shown improvement in some areas since Ombudsman Educational Services assumed management last year. (AJC)

Minnesota: Waivers spell likely end to tutoring program
Dozens of states intend to apply for waivers that would free their schools from a federal requirement that they set aside hundreds of millions of dollars a year for after-school tutoring, a program many researchers say has been ineffective. The 2002 No Child Left Behind law requires school districts that repeatedly fail to meet its benchmarks to set aside federal money to pay for outside tutors. But studies released in the past five years have found mixed results, at best, from the program. “We are spending millions of dollars a year, and we are not seeing any measurable results for students,” said Matthew Mohs, who oversees the St. Paul Public Schools’ tutoring program, which set aside about $4.5 million for tutoring this school year. (AP)

Florida: Students born to undocumented immigrants sue over tuition
A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Miami by Florida residents being charged out-of-state tuition rates to attend state colleges and universities. The students are American citizens — children who were born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants — and they say Florida’s regulations violate their constitutional rights. Wendy Ruiz, a 19-year-old sophomore at Miami Dade College with a 3.7 grade point average, has a plan. She expects to graduate later this year with a two-year associate’s degree in Biology. Ruiz pays three times what most other students pay for tuition at Miami Dade College. When she enrolled last year, she was told that because her parents lack legal immigration papers, she has to pay out-of-state tuition rates — nearly $5,000 per semester. (NPR)

New York: State school chief offers ideas to cope with cutbacks
Many districts are experiencing a decline in enrollment, which causes a decline in revenue, he noted — and districts across the state will have to contend with a tax cap when planning budgets. But those challenges do not excuse schools from finding a way to provide a better education to children, he said. “We need to dramatically rethink our approach and what we do,” he said. “Not necessarily do more with less, but do different with less. As you do that work of reallocating resources, it must always be with an eye toward student achievement.” (Buffalo News)

New York: NYSUT’s leaders get double-digit raises
The dire financial circumstances in public school districts have seen teachers taking pay cuts and bidding farewell to colleagues who received pink slips. And yet, in contrast to the grim news coming out of schools, compensation has never been better at the headquarters of the New York State United Teachers, the largest union representing teachers across the state. Top staff received generous annual salary increases — some equal to more than an entire year’s worth of earnings for the average teacher. (Albany Times-Union)


Schools generally fail at outreach to parents
The other day I asked a friend how the first few weeks of first grade were going for her son. She paused, frowned and allowed as how she really had no idea. Her boy has declared school “fine” and sees no reason to elaborate. My friend has a job, which makes it tough to pop in during the school day. The message on the teacher’s voicemail flat-out declares that she doesn’t check it and gets to emails when she can, which is sporadically. You’re horrified and you want to know what schools? All three are highly regarded Minneapolis programs, as it happens, but it doesn’t matter. Urban, suburban, I’m here to tell you this is more the rule than the exception. (Beth Hawkins)

Lifting student achievement by weeding out harmful teachers
Almost everybody concerned with educational policy agrees on two things: the U.S. has a very serious achievement problem and teachers are the most important element in our school for addressing this problem.  Beyond these, agreement breaks down. In the face of this I want to offer one simple thought:  The future of our schools depends heavily on dealing with the small number of teachers who simply should not be in the classroom.  Specifically, by replacing the bottom 5-10 percent of teachers with the average teacher found in today’s classrooms, research indicates that the achievement of U.S. students would rise from below the developed country average to near the top if not at the top.  The gains to students and to the U.S. economy from that improvement are truly enormous – making it worth considering some alternation in current policies that ignore the problem. (Eric Hanushek via Eduwonk)


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